City proposes $57 million capital budget

By Kirk Winter

At the December regular council meeting, Kawartha Lakes senior staff presented a prioritized listing of capital projects for consideration and debate — including $26 million in road repairs and upgrades.

The list also includes $15.6 million worth of new vehicles and equipment for the city fleet and $4.9 million in upgrades and repairs to city-owned facilities.

Dr. Adam Found, manager of engineering and corporate assets, who spearheaded this part of the budget presentation, told council that “the city should be spending these amounts” to keep on top of pressing city needs and that money coming out of debentures, the asset management reserve, the fleet reserve and the gas tax downloaded by the federal government should cover the bulk of these projects.

Found reminded council that the city budget is made up of three very different pieces that include the operating budget, the capital budget and the special projects budget.

“The capital budget is one-time only expenditures,” Found said, “that result in the creation or improvement of an asset. Road repairs are a good example of a capital project.”

Found told council that major capital projects for 2023, if approved by council, will reduce the fire fleet capital backlog, provide vehicles for the community paramedics program, pay for the design of a new bridge over the OPS number one drain to further facilitate development in northwestern Lindsay, build a new waste cell at the Lindsay-OPS landfill to allow for adequate capacity, make a one-time investment to address the Public Works fleet capital backlog and ensure priority investments in roads.

“The additional cell at the landfill is an urgent priority,” Found said.

Found also told council that even with this proposed expenditure for 2023, the city still has a capital backlog of $87.5 million in projects that have been identified and discussed but not acted on by the city for lack of funding.

“Ninety-two per cent of those unfinished projects involve road work,” Found said.

“In 2023, we will see the first year of the tax supported capital levy of 1.5 per cent collected, the equivalent of $37 per household,” Found said. “All monies collected over the next 10 years by this levy will support the asset management reserves. Our goal is that the capital budget will be sustainable at the end of the 10-year period and the city will no longer have to plan to take on debt for capital projects.”

Found concluded his overview calling the capital budget “pretty modest,” and then opened the floor to questions.

Councillor Emmett Yeo wanted to know the impact Bill 23 might have on the city budgets.

“Staff will update council in January on that issue,” Found said.

Councillor Dan Joyce was very happy to see the 2023 capital budget allot 46 percent of its funding for road construction and maintenance. Joyce asked Found what had been spent five to 10 years ago that caused the roads to fall into such a state of disrepair?

“Expenditures on roads in those budgets were $10 to $15 million a year maximum,” Found said. “Probably (only) 25 to 30 percent of the total capital budget.”

Joyce asked Found how long it will take the city to fill the waste cell awaiting council approval for the Lindsay-OPS landfill site.

“A cell will likely be filled in four to five years,” Found said.

Councillor Charlie McDonald wanted to know if there are any restrictions as to what the federal gas tax money can be used for.

“The money can be used for any capital tax supported project once a decision is made by council,” Found said.

McDonald also wondered how the city decides which roads get prioritized in the yearly capital budget. “Staff and council put together a five-year road plan and decisions are made based on that plan,” Found said.

Councillor Mike Perry told Found that he thought the capital budget focus on roads is “spot on.”

“People in Ward Four think roads are important, to the point where they have been knocking on my door wanting to talk about roads,” Perry said.

Councillor Pat Warren took time out to remind council the original purpose of the gasoline tax rebate to municipalities.

“The gas tax was originally brought in to lower greenhouse gas emissions and fund green initiatives (like transit) but how the money is used has ‘evolved’ over the years.”

Councillor Ron Ashmore had the final question for Found on his capital budget presentation, asking when the Colborne Street bridge project is planned for moving forward.

“The bridge project has been deferred for 2023, and approval for construction is scheduled to happen in 2024,” Found said.    

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